Core Competencies

Wiggins N, Borbon A. 1998. Core roles and competencies of community health advisors (Chapter 3). The National Community Health Advisor Study: Weaving the Future. Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press (410-223-2890).

Noelle Wiggins, EdD, MSPH
Director, Community Capacitation Center
Multnomah County Health Department
10317 E Burnside St.
Portland, OR 97216
503-988-6250, x26646


Community Health Worker Common Core Project (C3)

National Health Advisor Study (48 pgs 1998 Lee Rosenthal et al)

Community Health Advisor

Seven Core Roles of Community Health Advisors in the United States (pg 12)

  1. Cultural mediation between communities and health and human services system
  2. Informal counseling and social support
  3. Providing culturally appropriate health education
  4. Advocating for individual and community needs
  5. Assuring people get the services they need.
  6. Building individual and community capacity
  7. Providing direct services

Community Health Advocates  CHA Core Roles and Competencies ( pg 6)
————— Roles —————

  • Cultural mediation between communities and health
  • Advocating for individual and community needs
  •  Advocating for human services system
  • Ensuring people get the services they need
  • Informal counseling and social support
  • Building individual and community capacity
  • Providing culturally appropriate health education. á Providing direct services

————— Competencies: Skills —————

  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills.
  • Advocacy skills
  • Knowledge base
  • Service coordination skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Capacity building skills
  • Teaching skills.

————— Competencies: Qualities (partial list) ————–

  • Relationship with community being served
  • Empathy
  • Personal strength and courage
  • Persistence
  • Creativity/ Resourcefulness
  • Respectfulness
  • Desire to help

Core Skills of Community Health Advisors ( pg 16-17)

Virtually all respondents agreed that to work effectively as a CHA, people need good communication skills. Listening skills were seen as essential for a variety of functions.
Ability to use written language and explain health concepts using appropriate language were also considered of strong value.

The qualities of friendliness and sociability are also interpersonal skills that were seen as important for CHAs. Two additional types of interpersonal skills were seen as essential:
ability to work as part of a team and ability to work appropriately with diverse groups of
people. The ability to understand and respect a variety of perspectives is essential to
CHAs’ role as mediators between communities and the health care system

According to CHAs and their supervisors, CHAs need at least three types of knowledge to be optimally effective. First, CHAs need broad knowledge about the community. This involvesunderstanding of community norms, needs,problems and dynamics. Some urban CHAs
used the term “street smarts” to describe the community knowledge CHAs need.
Knowledge about the specific health issues the CHA addresses is critical, as well as the
ability to find information that the CHA does not know, since CHAs are often asked about
a variety of issues. Finally, knowledge of local service systems and resources is fundamental to helping assure that people get services they need.

At its most basic level, this skill begins with knowledge – knowing what services are available, where they can be located, agency hours of operation, and who is eligible. CHAs also must develop an active referral network to be of assistance to clients, and this involves the ability to network and build coalitions. Appropriate use of a referral network depends on the CHA understanding the limitations of his or her role and when he/ she needs to refer to other providers

One of the two sub-categories within this cluster is defined as empowerment skills. Empowerment is related to assessment in that CHAs must be able to help people identify their own problems. Many CHAs emphasized the need to “work with the ideas of the people.”
Along with identifying problems, CHAs work with clients to identify strengths and resources. To do so, CHAs must view clients as capable people, not as victims. CHAs must then walk the “fine line between enabling and empowering,” according to one CHA supervisor.
Massachusetts’s Board of Certification of Community Health Workers Propose Ten Core Competencies for CHWs (August 2014 Based on 1998 CHA Study

  1. Outreach Methods and Strategies
  2. Individual and Community Assessment
  3. Effective Communication
  4. Cultural Responsiveness and Mediation
  5. Education to Promote Healthy Behavior Change
  6. Care Coordination and System Navigation
  7. Use of Public Health Concepts and Approaches
  8. Advocacy and Community Capacity Building
  9. Documentation
  10. Professional Skills and Conduct


Florida CHW Report Core Roles, Competencies, Qualities and Skills ( September 28, 2012; 60 pages)

Florida Department of Health
Florida Community Health Worker Coalition
BY  Virna Dapic, Ph.D.  And  Danyell S. Wilson, Ph.D.
September 28, 2012

SOPHE – Society for Public Health Education:  

Complementary Roles and Training of the Health Education Specialist and Community Health Worker

SOPHE CHW HES comlementary roles0001

(Also see Roles and Scope of practice )